Apr. 8—AUTRYVILLE — With each step, a group of walkers will raise awareness about suicide prevention among veterans during a 222-mile journey from Fayetteville to Camp Lejeune and back.
When they cross the Cumberland-Sampson County county line this week, officials from Autryville will welcome them with open arms. "Let's Walk It Out" is scheduled to come through the area Thursday, April 8. Veterans, active duty soldiers, first responders, and other members of the public are being encouraged to visit and meet the visitors. According to town leaders, they're scheduled to arrive sometime between 4 and 5 p.m., with plans to spend the night at town hall before leaving Friday morning.
"I think it's wonderful," Commissioner Debra Baxley said while sharing her feelings about Autryville being involved. "We're really excited and our community is really involved in it."
Proceeds from the initiative are going to foundations and charities dedicated to veteran wellness. After starting at Charlie Mike' Pub in Fayetteville, the first leg will end at Big Daddy's Grill, 107 W. Williams St., Autryville. For organizers the purpose of the ruck march is to push the body physically to show the mental strain military, law enforcement, and first responders experience.
"We're glad that they reached out to us and asked to stay here first," Baxley said. "I think it's commendable for all of us to try to be involved with our veterans."
The group will head towards Clinton via Highway 24. The schedule on the organization's website is showing that they will rest at Royal Lane Park before heading to Kenansville. Let's Walk It Out is scheduled to finish Saturday, April 17, after the second half of the march concludes with the last leg from Autryville back to Fayetteville.
To spread awareness before the walk, core walkers and supporters posted Facebook messages about hardships related to being a veteran of first responder. According to the post, 80% of first responders reported experiences of traumatic experiences on the job and three million veterans are diagnosed with some type of mental health disorder. Core walker TJ Jaimes also reported than more than 20 commit suicide every day.
"Our little suffering that we're going to do walking is just a fragment of what our sisters and brothers go through," Jaimes said.
"We stand together to break the silence and normalize the conversation surrounding all mental illness and suicide, through collaboration, awareness, and intervention," added Gianna Varrati, CEO of the National Warrior Foundation in the message.
Donations, raffle tickets, sponsorships and volunteer information is available online at www.letswalkitout.org. All Donations are tax deductible and processed by the Special Forces Foundation. For 2021 the listed foundations are Operation Enduring Warrior, the Duck and Cover Initiative, National Warrior Foundation, and Operation Aquatic Freedom.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-592-8137. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.